NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- High-frequency trading has been terrorizing the markets for a while now, and there's no reason to think that's going to change anytime soon.
There has been no tall stand for it to stop and without much outcry, why would it? Supporters of HFT -- as it's commonly called -- claim that it provides liquidity to the markets. That's a bunch of crap and everyone in the business knows it.
Technically, sure, by slamming the bid/ask spreads of stocks down to pennies and jumping ahead of orders, they are providing some sort of liquidity, but not in the sense that actually matters to 95% of all traders and certainly 100% of all investors.
For starters, up to 90% of all of the "liquidity" gets cancelled within milliseconds after the order is placed, making them rather artificial to begin with. And their algorithmic mistakes are bountiful. How about the botched IPO by
BATS Global Markets
? What about the fake tweet regarding an attack on the White House that caused markets to shave off billions in market cap in a matter of seconds?
Oh wait, I've got it: How about when the algo's drove down equities more than 10% in a matter of minutes in May of 2010, with some quality names down 15%, 20% or 25%? Even more telling was the complete snapback minutes later, with the
closing in the green for the day.
I'd love to hear the argument that supports the need and necessity of HFT in today's market. Aside from firms like
Knight Trading Group
practically blowing up from their own errors, all it does is feed the exchanges a commission and keeps quant firms in business. Across the big board, meaning the vast majority of market participants, it not only serves no purpose, but rather, a negative one.
But without anyone to speak out against it, why stop? The exchanges sure as hell don't want it gone, because it represents at least 50% of their volume in any given year, depending on the volatility (less volatility equals less volume and less HFT profit, while more volatility equals high volume and more HFT profit).
You know what, the whole thing just seems corrupt to me. Just like how early data releases are somehow "fair" -- which is a whole different story completely.
Until Charles Schwab, the founder of
, spoke out against HFT in the marketplace to the
Wall Street Journal
, Mark Cuban was one of the few that stood up and took a stance.
Well, ladies and gentleman, he's right! Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks, has laid out several different scenarios that wouldn't outlaw high-frequency trading per se, but rather, highly discourage it.
By enhancing the tax benefits to long-term investors -- such as eliminating the dividend tax for stocks held more than five years and a lower or eliminated tax on long-term capital gains -- it encourages stocks to be held over longer periods of time. He also proposed a per-share tax or fee for positions held for less than 1 hour.
Why would the public have a problem with that? I certainly don't.
I'm an investor for the long term and I'm also a trader. I don't usually hold positions less than one hour, but swing them over days or weeks. For the vast majority of market participants, this would have little to no effect.
Actually, I take that back. It would have a positive effect.
By eliminating taxes on dividends or cutting down the long-term capital gains tax, it allows investors to hold on to a greater portion of their earnings. That "extra" money can be reinvested into something else -- perhaps the same security, if it's a dividend -- and allow investors to have more bang for their buck.
As Cuban said, the equity markets were originally put in place to raise capital for businesses. Now, it's a battleground for algorithms and computers. A nerd wonderland of financially destructive bots. Another "fat finger" incident will happen again; it's only a matter of time.
The circuit breakers are no help either. So they shut the market down for a couple of minutes
a 10% swoon. Big whoop. That's like putting a band-aid over a bullet wound. The government (and many other organizations for that matter) are notorious for coming up with short-term solutions that fail to address the long-term issues.
Let's get something right and discourage high-frequency trading. Outlawing it might be "un-American," but nothing says we can't discourage it.
-- Written by Bret Kenwell in Petoskey, Mich.
At the time of publication, the author held no position in any stocks mentioned.
Bret Kenwell currently writes, blogs and also contributes to Robert Weinstein's Weekly Options Newsletter. Focuses on short-to-intermediate-term trading opportunities that can be exposed via options. He prefers to use debit trades on momentum setups and credit trades on support/resistance setups. He also focuses on building long-term wealth by searching for consistent, quality dividend paying companies and long-term growth companies. He considers himself the surfer, not the wave, in relation to the market and himself. He has no allegiance to either the bull side or the bear side.